SAN DIEGO – A longtime rival will be the next heir to Yadier Molina as the starting catcher of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Free agent Willson Contreras agreed to a five-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals on the final day of the MLB Winter Meetings. The Cardinals introduced Contreras and formally announced the deal Friday, two days after it was reported to be in its final stages.
Contreras’ deal is expected to be around $87.5 million and is pending a physical. It represents the fifth-largest contract offered by the franchise and largest to a player who had not previously played with St. Louis.
Contreras, a three-time All Star, just wrapped up his seventh season with the Chicago Cubs. He has slugged 20 home runs in the catcher’s spot four times, showing off rare pop out of the position. Contreras has also averaged 18.5 baserunners caught stealing per season and has logged at least 800 innings five times.
In his rookie season, Contreras guided Cubs pitchers to a 2016 World Series title. He brings more than 350 games worth of experience against NL Central opponents. At 30 years old, he remained an intriguing option for the Cardinals due to his consistent production and experience.
For the first time since 2005, someone other than Yadier Molina will be handling primary catching duties for the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s a focal point that Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak wanted to address for good by the end of the Winter Meetings, and Contreras looks to be the answer for the next several years.
The Cardinals also had some interest in trading for Oakland Athletics catcher Sean Murphy and signing two-time World Series champion Christian Vazquez. St. Louis engaged in talks with Oakland about Murphy, though the team risked parting with young upside potentially in the likes of Nolan Gorman, Lars Nootbaar or Masyn Winn.
Instead, the Cardinals opted for a backstop that allows them to hang onto several young talents. St. Louis will forfeit a draft pick next year though after Contreras rejected a qualifying offer from the Cubs last month enabling them to a draft choice.
Contreras reached out to former teammate Jose Quintana about his experience with the Cardinals earlier this offseason. The southpaw gave Contreras a “strong recommendation” to check in with St. Louis this offseason, according to reports from Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat. Quintana agreed to a deal with the Mets just hours before Contreras and the Cardinals began negotiations to finalize the new contract.
This is a developing story. Check back for more updates from FOX 2.